2017 – what a year!

With Hull UK City of Culture and the 25th Anniversary of Hull Jazz Festival, we knew 2017 was going to be special. And we weren’t wrong!

Our year got under way in February with Mind on the Run, a 3-day celebration of the music and legacy of ambient music pioneer Basil Kirchin. An incredible line-up of artists paid tribute to Basil, including Sean O’Hagan, the BBC Concert Orchestra, Matthew Bourne, Matthew Herbert, Will Gregory, Hidden Orchestra, Jerry Dammers, Evan Parker, Alan Barnes and Spring Heel Jack. With talks, DJ sets and a sold-out screening of Nova Studios’ documentary about Kirchin and his work, it was wonderful to see so many people celebrating one of Hull’s unsung musical heroes. Big thanks to Nova Studios for making sure Basil’s story gets told and that his legacy lives on.

The poster for the film Mind on the Run

Mind on the Run poster

Fast forward to July and the PRS Foundation’s New Music Biennial, another incredible 3 days of music in venues across the city. We were really proud to commission GoGo Penguin to create As Above So Below, a new piece inspired by Basil Kirchin. And there was so much good music across the weekend – some of our other highlights included A Journey with the Giants of Jazz, composed by Peter Edwards and performed by the Nu Civilisation Orchestra; Ring Out by Ray Lee; Rivers & Railways by Eliza Carthy; and Journey to Cassiopeia by Hannah Peel, with its epic brass and synths. And great to see capacity audiences for so many of the shows.

Hull Jazz Festival returned for its 25th Summer Edition from 11 – 15 July, with record audiences for another stellar line-up of some of the best UK, US and European jazz talent. From an incredible performance by Bowie’s Blackstar collaborator, Donny McCaslin, to a sold-out show with UK jazz and soul giants Courtney Pine and Omar, we were treated to some truly spellbinding shows. Other highlights included guitarist Sébastien Giniaux’s sophisticated gypsy jazz, a stunning improvised set from Sarah Tandy and Binker Golding, and female trailblazers Nérija.

Hull Jazz Festival 25th Summer Edition - 11 - 15 July 2017

We wrapped up the year in style with our 25th Anniversary celebrations in November. Taking place in venues across the city, the week-long festival saw some of our biggest shows to date, brand new commissions and great performances by local musicians of all ages as part of our outreach programme.

The US was represented by jazz guitar legend Pat Metheny at Hull City Hall and Brooklyn urban jazz trio Moon Hooch, who tore a new roof off Früit with their acoustic techno. We had new music from Andy Sheppard Quartet, Arun Ghosh Quintet and pianist and jazz maestro Bill Laurance. Plus two special 25th Anniversary commissions, supported by the PRS Foundation, from Stuart McCallum and Revenu. Zoe Gilby Quartet provided jazz fun for all the family and Dusty & Shirley saw the ever-fabulous David McAlmont and Gwyneth Herbert celebrate the iconic 60s sounds of Dusty Springfield and Shirley Bassey.

Our outreach programme culminated in two shows that gave local children and young people and amateur musicians the chance to perform alongside some of the UK’s most exciting jazz artists. A Brief History of the Coolest Instrument in the World saw children from Mayfield Primary School and the Guitarmageddon Orchestra (local amateur guitarists) come together as ensembles to perform two pieces by guitarist and composer Chris Montague. And in The Jazz Ticket, young musicians from City of Hull Youth Jazz Orchestra, East Riding Youth Jazz Orchestra, Kelvin Hall School, South Hunsley School and St Mary’s College celebrated six giants of jazz who were born in 1917. They were performing with artists from Nu Civilisation Orchestra, who wrapped up the show with A Journey with the Giants of Jazz.

And we brought everything to close with a stunning performance by GoGo Penguin of their new score to Godfrey Reggio’s cult cinema masterpiece Koyaanisqatsi.

Hull Jazz Festival 25th Anniversary - 11 -18 November 2017

Big thanks to our funders, Arts Council England, the PRS Foundation and Hull 2017, and to our producing partners Serious and Tomorrow’s Warriors.

Tickets are on sale now for the first of our 2018 shows. See you there!

Basil Kirchin – his legacy lives on

Ahead of our screening of Mind on the Run, as part of our closing event at Hull City Hall on 18th November, we asked Matt Stephenson of Nova Studios to reflect back over the past year and what it’s meant for Basil Kirchin’s musical legacy:

As the producers of Mind On The Run, the documentary telling the story of the wonderful ‘lost’ composer Basil Kirchin, one of our hopes was that, through the film, Basil’s work would be brought into the light and recognised as being something beautiful and truly original.

The Mind On The Run weekend celebration of Basil’s life in February 2017 was the start of that recognition – a weekend featuring artists including members of Stereolab, The High Llamas, Goldfrapp and St Etienne alongside remarkable musicians such as Matthew Bourne, Alexander Hawkins, Joe Acheson and Hidden Orchestra, The BBC Concert Orchestra, Revenu, Evan Parker, Alan Barnes and more.

Photo of Basil Kirchin and his wife

Basil Kirchin and his wife Esther

It’s worth mentioning that none of this would have happened without the work of musical treasure hunter Jonny Trunk and his superb lucky-dip of a record label Trunk Records.

Back in the 90s, when Basil was almost completely forgotten, it was Jonny who tracked him down and began re-releasing his work, ensuring that digital listeners could hear some of the most haunting, poetic and ground-breaking British music of the 20th century.

Basil died shortly after Johnny released Abstractions of the Industrial North, along with various library and film music recordings and two new albums – Particles and Quantum, but his legacy was out there: a low, quiet flame – but one which never went out.

Photo of a page in a notebook with handwritten song lyrics

Basil’s handwritten lyrics for ‘Moments’

We felt 2017 was the perfect opportunity for Hull to ‘own’ Basil; he was an outsider artist, someone whose personal story seemed to resonate with the story of the city itself – once great, subsequently forgotten yet carrying on regardless, waiting quietly to be rediscovered.

The critical response to both the weekend and the film has been wonderful. People who find Basil tend to be people who are willing to look a little further, they’re open-minded people, they probably don’t follow the obvious crowd, they want something that might take them to new places and touch them in different ways. In fact, if you’ve got as far as this and you’re still actually reading, then you are probably one of those people too.

Some people might call it pretentious, but fuck ‘em, they can have Coldplay and Adele if it makes them happy.

And the others (us, we, Basil’s people) are everywhere. Our Mind On The Run documentary is somehow finding those people. Every month a promoter somewhere gets in touch wanting to know if they can show the film – in recent months Basil’s story has played to audiences of the finest freaks in Manchester, Gateshead, Belfast with more screenings and Basil celebrations planned in 2018.

The poster for the film Mind on the Run

Mind on the Run poster

In spite of all the great publicity that took place in February, with extensive plays and coverage on BBC 6 Music, Radio 3, The Guardian and more, there’s still a sense of discovery around Basil – and I think there always will be.

The good stuff is always harder to find, but it’s out there if you look for it. Basil isn’t going away.

In his own words, on his genius classic album Worlds within Worlds:

Hiding in my little place,

No-one hears me or sees my face,

But I am there, you wait and see:

Something special will come from me.

Along with Jonny Trunk, J-Night and everyone who participated in our film, I hope we’ve all done something to ensure that Basil Kirchin remains something special that will always be worth discovering.

Photo of Basil Kirchin as an older man

Basil Kirchin in his later years

You can see Nova Studio’s Mind on the Run documentary at Hull City Hall on Saturday 18th November, before GoGo Penguin perform their new live score to Godfrey Reggio’s cult cinema masterpiece Koyaanisqatsi. GoGo Penguin will also perform As Above So Below, the Kirchin-inspired piece we commissioned them to create at part of the New Music Biennial 2017. Tickets are available now from Hull City Hall.

Revenu talk about Hull past and present, collaboration and the creative process

We asked Revenu (Liam van Rijn and Joseph Bird) to talk to us about the new piece we’ve commissioned them to create as part of Hull Jazz Festival’s 25th birthday celebrations this November…

What’s your approach to a commission like this, that combines audio and visual elements?

We started by obtaining a variety of field recordings from places all over the city, the plan being to manipulate the sounds and weave them into the performance. As the premise of  the project concerns the ‘sound of Hull’ it made sense to start on the streets, collecting the genuine article. Incidentally this has gotten us thinking about the city whilst also providing a few locations that have been useful for filming.

We’re both quite tune orientated, but for this project it feels more appropriate for the music to drift so as not to intrude on the imagery. When writing parts we try to keep it quite loose, with emphasis on the spaces between the notes.

The accompanying video has a loose narrative, a journey through Hull over the course of a day, and one of the things we’re thinking about is how much the music should/could reflect the changes that are happening on screen; time of day, weather, subject matter etc…

We’re not trying to be genuine; we just see the piece as being an alternate soundtrack to the city.

Liam van Rijn and Joseph Bird

Revenu – Liam van Rijn & Joseph Bird (c) Jamie Akrill

Your new piece draws on Hull’s historical heritage and its contemporary culture. What elements of the city’s history have you found yourselves most drawn to, and why do you think they resonate with you?

Wandering around the wasteland of St. Andrew’s dock the other day, its deep locks all silted up, there’s still a sense of scale and the economic prowess the fishing trade once commanded in the city when confronted by the colossal ‘Lordline’ and ‘Bullnose’ buildings, long since abandoned and vandalised.

It’s quite a melancholy place, and I’m strangely attracted to these ghostly shells that are the only remnants of an area once teeming with activity.

Like any other city, Hull is built on the bones of an older one; its functions and purpose vastly differing from the one that stands today. There’s still a dialogue between these two eras and it’s present in things like faded signs on the ends of terraces, former warehouses now converted into flats, (some with winches still attached) and on roads where cobbles peek out from crumbly tarmac.

The local Flashback newspaper, which shows pictures of Hull’s past, is great to see how the landscape of the city has changed over the last century.

The visual part of the piece tells the story of the city through things that are everywhere and overlooked. Why was it important for you to focus on the things that people might pass by every day without noticing?

Sometimes there is just as much drama going on in disused streets and quiet residential areas than outside clubs and on busy junctions. It’s a drama of a different sort. For some reason it made sense to show the unnoticed and inconsequential things to best illustrate ‘business as usual’; the million acts of normality that occur daily in a city.

Taking these things out of context and seeing them isolated and enlarged, they take on a different persona and the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

When filming I try to avoid anything that has been deliberately placed to draw the eye, (fountains, statues etc.) not out of any system, but because it’s difficult to get an interesting/original shot out of them. So no sunsets over the Humber bridge I’m afraid…

I’m finding that the bits that are embedded in the background often allude to the genuine history of the place, be that industrial, cultural or natural.

People don’t really feature in the film, which gives the impression that Hull is a bit of a ghost town, but the thinking behind it is that we tend to emote more if other humans are involved and I wanted it to come from a more dispassionate place.

The performance of the piece in November will feature a variety of electronic and acoustic instruments. Can you give us a sneak preview of the instruments and musicians you’ll be working with? And what’s your approach to collaborating with other musicians?

We’ll be working with a group of dignitaries who we’ve collaborated with previously, and all happen to be from Hull: James Rushworth (percussion), Pete Minns (saxophone) and Will Blake (bass).

The piece will also feature a smattering of synths, samplers and drum machines.

We improvise quite a bit when we play together, which churns out lots of potential material. Playing in a group, things invariably happen in the moment that can be missed at the time or can never seem to be recreated when you have another go at it, so recording everything is a pretty integral part of our process as it means we can sift through and extract the interesting bits later.

We’ll sketch out a part if we have something particular in mind for a musician and they’ll usually play around with it until they find a version of it that works for them, this keeps the music from feeling less rigid too.

It’s a constant back and forth trying to refine ideas and arrangements.

You can see the premiere of Revenu’s new work at Hull Truck Theatre on Friday 17 November at 7pm, along with the world premiere of a new piece by guitarist Stuart McCallum. You can find more information and booking details here.

The new work has been commissioned with the support of the PRS Foundation.

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A Brief History of the Coolest Instrument in the World comes to Hull!

We asked our friends at Serious to tell us a bit more about A Brief History of the Coolest Instrument in the World, heading to Hull Jazz Festival this November:

Throughout 2017, live music producer Serious has been programming multiple events in the UK City of Culture including Favourite Sounds of Hull and the Mind on the Run: The Basil Kirchin Story. Now, we’re bringing our mass participation project A Brief History of the Coolest Instrument in the World to Hull as part of the Hull Jazz Festival, giving you a chance to get involved and play as part of a newly formed guitar ensemble!

A Brief History of the Coolest Instrument in the World is a performance which marks the milestones of the electric guitar’s prolific role through 80 years of popular culture, from Charlie Christian to Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix and beyond.  The performance is led by one of the UK’s most innovative guitarists, founding member of Troyka, Chris Montague, who is joined for this concert by Conor Chaplin (bass), Tim Giles (drums), and Michael L Roberts (vocals/piano).

Chris Montague

Chris Montague

Chris Montague has had a soft spot for the stringed instrument since his pre-teen years. He recalls being enthralled by Jimmie Hendrix’s sounds on his father’s car stereo as a boy and subsequently pleading to be gifted a guitar for Christmas. Since this point, Chris has grown into a professional musician, touring internationally to share his music. Having been selected for Serious’ renowned talent development programme Take Five, Chris worked with the team to develop A Brief History of the Coolest Instrument in the World as a participation initiative– initially piloted with 40 children from THAMES Music Hub in London.

For Chris, picking a selection of the world’s most influential guitar players to include in the show was no mean feat.  He notes he turned to fellow guitarists to take in not just the famous players, but those who had added something important, unique and powerful to the cannon of the instrument. Throughout the concert, Montague looks to move the audience through a mixture of performance and speech, celebrating the versatility of the instrument. The participation element includes base lines, melodies and chords to enable both young people and adults to have fun while taking part.

Performers on stage at London Jazz Festival

A Brief History of the Coolest Instrument of the World at the EFG London Jazz Festival

Both Serious and Chris are delighted to be bringing the project to Hull.

Claire Whitaker, Director of Serious noted:

“Having built up a close and fond relationship with Hull, particularly through our work in the City of Culture this year, we are delighted to be welcoming our friends from the city to take part in one of our most successful mass participation performances, as a partner project to that running as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival 2017. We hope participants will enjoy and learn from the project as much as we enjoy programming it in this special city.”

The project will give 20 children and 20 adults from Hull a chance to play their guitars in unison alongside learning about the musicians who have shaped the course of the music they play from day to day. Taking part is free of charge and open to all guitar players, from beginners to advanced level. The ensemble will rehearse and play music uniquely composed by Chris Montague, and will be able to choose their part based on the level they feel most comfortable with.

We are also welcoming an audience for the performance at the Albemarle Music Centre. Tickets can be purchased here.

If you are interested in taking part in the project, please register your interest by clicking here.

We can’t wait to welcome you!

New music commissioned for Hull Jazz Festival

“It’s so important to explore new sounds in jazz.” says J-Night and Hull Jazz Festival Director David Porter, “We’re as interested in great new sounds for the future as we are in celebrating the wonderful jazz tradition.”

2017’s been a busy year so far for J-Night. Being UK City of Culture demands something different. Something extra. Something that makes people see jazz in a new way.

What better than funding our most creative UK artists to explore and create new music for our audiences?

The PRS (Performing Right Society) Foundation has funded J-Night to commission a number of cracking projects this year:

GoGo Penguin, the acoustic electronica trio, will unveil their tribute to the industrial sounds of the North in a Basil Kirchin-inspired piece called As Above So Below. It premieres in Hull and London in July as part of the PRSF New Music Biennial.

They’ll then revisit Hull in November to reprise the piece, alongside their astonishing score to Godfrey Reggio’s cult film Koyaanisqatsi, itself commissioned by Home in Manchester.

GoGo Pengiun performing live

GoGo Penguin performing at Home, Manchester (c) Sarah Leech, Home Manchester

J-Night will also support guitarist / composer Stuart McCallum and electronica artist Revenu to create new works exploring their love affair with their instruments and with the City of Hull. Stuart McCallum is established as one of the UK’s leading guitarist and composers, working with the Cinematic Orchestra. Stuart will write a piece to celebrate the versatility of the guitar. Revenu has been discovered by Giles Peterson’s Future Bubblers in 2016 and took part in the Basil Kirchin celebration weekend Mind on the Run in February this year. Revenu will be exploring his favourite sounds of Hull, alongside visuals from artist Joe Bird.

The commissions will headline the Hull Jazz Festival 25th anniversary in November, joining another commissioned piece. A Journey with the Giants of Jazz is Peter Edwards’ new piece for the Nu Civilisation Orchestra. It’s all about the defining year of 1917, that saw the birth of jazz’s most influential artists – Thelonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Tadd Dameron, Dizzy Gillespie and Mongo Santamaria. Young people from Hull and East Riding will be working with Peter in the run up to the November festival and they’ll perform pieces by these six giants of jazz before Nu Civilisation Orchestra take the stage.

Jazz North announces latest Northern Line Ambassadors

11 new artists announced for the 5th edition of northern line

Jazz North, the northern jazz development agency, announces the latest roster of Ambassador Artists to be selected for northern line – the innovative model for touring which gives promoters the opportunity to programme high quality artists with low financial risk.

Since its launch in 2013, northern line has featured 48 Ambassador Artists who have performed 520 gigs to date with 150 plus promoters partners across the north of England and beyond.

The northern line 5th Round roster is:

Archipelago (Newcastle)
Birkett and Fisk (Newcastle)
Dan Whieldon Quartet (Manchester)
Deep Cabaret (Lancaster)
Early Nite (Manchester)
Perpetual Motion Machine (Sheffield)
Skeltr (Manchester)
The Electrio (Leeds)
Tiptoe (Leeds)
Ubunye (Leeds/Huddersfield)
Ushaw Ensemble (Newcastle)

The artists selected for northern line 5

the northern line 5 artists

northern line Ambassador Artists are selected by an independent panel to represent the highest quality, originality and variety of musicians living and working in the north.

This years selection panel featured –
Barney Stevenson, Marsden Jazz Festival
Paul Bream, Jazz North East
Juliet Kelly, Musician
Corey Mwamba, Musician and Outfront Derby promoter
Esther Hingle, Highlights Rural Touring
Dennis Rollins, Musician
Nigel Slee, Jazz North Creative Director, Musician
Steve Mead, Manchester Jazz Festival

David Porter, director of J-Night and Chair of the selection panel said:

“This fifth edition of northern line highlights the incredibly diverse range of jazz being performed every day by artists in the North. We are delighted that Jazz North will support these artists to develop their networks and bring their music to new audiences”

Jazz North will support these Round 5 artists with professional development and tour subsidy between September 1st 2017 and December 31st 2018.

Jazz North invite you to join them in celebrating this roster of artists at their Showcase Day live at Manchester Jazz Festival on Monday 31st July. To reserve your place please email [email protected]

More information, including artist profiles, available on the Jazz North website or via Lucy Woolley, northern line Project Manager – [email protected]

Jazz FM Awards 2017 – voting now open

Nominations have been announced for the Jazz FM Awards, with public voting open in three categories – Album of the Year, Live Experience of the Year and UK Jazz Act of the Year.

Voting closes on Friday 31st March – have your say here: http://www.jazzfmawards.com/vote/

It’s great to see artists we’ve worked with recently and artists we’re bringing to Hull this year among the nominees, including: Robert Glasper (International Jazz Artist), Donny McCaslin (International Jazz Artist and Album of the Year), Nubya Garcia (Breakthrough Act of the Year – see her in Hull this July with Nérija), Gwilym Simcock (Instrumentalist of the Year – see him at Middleton Hall on 30th April for our International Jazz Day show) and Soweto Kinch (UK Jazz Act of the Year)

Bowie collaborator Donny McCaslin joins the line-up for Hull Jazz Festival 2017

New York tenor sax titan Donny McCaslin is the latest international artist to join the line-up for Hull Jazz Festival Summer Edition 2017.

A dynamic presence on the New York jazz scene for the best part of three decades, McCaslin and his band became household names in 2016 after they collaborated and recorded with David Bowie on what was to be his final album, Blackstar.

Theirs is a freewheeling, grooving electric jazz that brings in elements of rock and electronica, following in the footsteps of jazz fusion pioneers like Weather Report and Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters.

Joined by Jason Lindner (keyboards), Tim Lefebvre (bass) and Mark Guiliana (drums), ‘the Blackstar band’, McCaslin plays at Hull Truck Theatre on Thursday 13th July.

Tickets, priced £20 available from Hull Truck box office, online, in person or by calling 01482 323638.

Multi Grammy Winning Pianist/Producer Robert Glasper comes to Hull this November

We’re very excited to announce that multi Grammy Award-winning US pianist/producer Robert Glasper will headline Hull Jazz Festival 24th Winter Edition this November with a new version of his Grammy-winning band The Experiment, with added DJ.

They’ll be playing material from their forthcoming new Blue Note album, due for release this autumn, ahead of their headline show at London Jazz Festival. Drawing on jazz, hip hop, R&B and rock, they refuse to be defined by any one genre and this promises to be an incredible show.

‘It’s a short list of jazz pianists who have the wherewithal to drop a J Dilla reference into a Thelonious Monk cover but not many jazz pianists are Robert Glasper.’ Los Angeles Times

Tickets are available now from Hull Truck Theatre. This show will sell out so best book in advance if you don’t want to miss out.

International Jazz Day 2016 comes to Hull

Jazz Day 2016

International Jazz Day was launched by UNESCO in 2011, to highlight the role that jazz plays in uniting people from all corners of the globe. We’ll be bringing International Jazz Day celebrations to Hull for the second time this year, joining promoters, artists and festivals in 195 countries.

Since 2012, thousands of artists and promoters from hundreds of countries have come together on April 30th to celebrate jazz’s role in promoting dialogue among cultures, diversity, and respect for human rights and human dignity; eradicating discrimination; promoting freedom of expression; fostering gender equality; and reinforcing the role of young people in bringing about social change.

With this in mind, we wanted our International Jazz Day line-up to shine a spotlight on artists who take influences from different cultures and musical traditions and transform them into something new and original.

First up is The Refix Project, the new collaboration between two of Hull’s finest vocalists, Lyn Acton and Audrey Okyere-Fosu. Inspired by the attitude and strength of the great songstresses of jazz (Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald), Lyn and Audrey are refixing their usual approach to interpreting music by working with an electronic, urban, dance-music ensemble. With music by David Gawthorpe and electronics from Endoflevelbaddie’s Scott Langthorp, The Refix Project are taking influences from the worlds of jazz, urban and electronic music and mixing them up into something exciting and new that’s firmly rooted in Hull’s incredible live music scene. This debut performance will be the start of something very special…

Refix logo

Our headliners Panjumby represent the close relationship that the British jazz scene has with musicians from the Caribbean and Africa, revitalising itself with fresh energy and new musical ideas at every collaboration. Panjumby draw on music from Trinidad, featuring jazz, calypso and soca material alongside choice standards. Led by the tremendous lyrical phrasing and rhythmic drive of steel pan master Dudley Nesbitt, Panjumby features great improvisers and a knockout rhythm section: Richard Ormrod (saxophones, clarinet, flute), Barkley McKay (keyboards, guitar), Kenneth Higgins (electric bass) and Sam Hobbs (drums).

PanjumbyWe asked Panjumby what International Jazz Day means to them: “Louis Armstrong said ALL music is folk music: he never heard a horse sing. For us, Jazz is what happens when you take any music from its cultural context, forge a deep personal relationship with it and then return it into circulation animated a different way, marching to a different drummer and saying what you want it to say. And that music and that spark can come from anyone in the world, irrespective of race, creed, colour or gender. International Jazz Day is about bringing all those voices together in one space, hearing all those stories and beginning to appreciate that there isn’t a single horse in the room. It’s all about the love.”

So why not come and feel the love at Hull Truck on Saturday 30th April? Tickets priced £11 and £6 for students and under-26s are available here.